As workers rallied Monday in the hopes that a newly appointed board will raise the minimum wage for fast food workers in New York, business leaders warned against targeting certain industries.
Earlier in the month, a board appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, met for the first time to answer the question of whether to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers in the state. With its most recent meeting Monday, supporters rallied to raise wages to $15 an hour. As The Associated Press reports, the rallies eventually spilled into the meeting.
“In New York, 180,000 fast food workers could finally be paid enough to afford more of their basic needs – $15 an hour,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), stated earlier in the month.
“But we can’t celebrate yet,” she continued. “Because whether or not this slice of the American Dream becomes a reality largely depends on how much broad public support we can show for this initiative.”
The International Franchise Association (IFA) and National Restaurant Association, however, warn that targeting certain industries could make them far less competitive. The groups have come together to form the Coalition to Save New York Restaurants in the hopes of stopping the board from implementing an industry-specific wage increase.
“If Governor Cuomo wishes to advance a wage increase, it should cover all of New York’s businesses, not just a select few,” IFA President Steve Caldeira declared in a statement. “Once again, the hard-working people the politicians and labor unions say they want to help would be most negatively impacted by a mandatory minimum wage increase for quick-service restaurants.”
“A wage increase that results in job losses and small business ownership is self-defeating and unnecessary, and clearly the Governor should understand this,” Caldeira concluded.
When Cuomo first announced the formation of the wage board back in May, it was after he failed to bring about a wage increase with the state legislature. Back in 2013 he was able to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to the current $8.75 but after trying again state lawmakers rejected him.
Though the group has not claimed to be connected, Fight for $15 has applauded the creation of the wage board. It has even set up an online petition. From rallies to media marketing campaigns, Fight for $15 has led much of the effort to raise the minimum wage in the past year.
The SEIU has been criticized by some, like Worker Center Watch (WCW), for using the Fight for $15 protests as a way of bypassing labor laws to more easily unionize fast food workers. Additionally, according to a report from Union Facts, a minimum wage increase would benefit the SEIU directly while hurting non-unionized SEIU competitors.
Still though, some experts warn a decision to raise the minimum wage does likely entail consequences and therefore must be evaluated with the possibly of job loss and business closures.
Seattle and San Francisco, which led the way in passing a $15 minimum wage, have already seen some businesses have to close because of the increased cost of labor. Nonprofits in Los Angeles, the most recent city to pass a $15 minimum wage, also have reported problems as well.
Additionally, as the investor rating service Moody’s warned in a recent report, raising the minimum wage will be particularly harmful for those working in the restaurant industry since many restaurants already operate with low profit margins.